Is diabetes hereditary?
(Lansing State Journal, July 13, 1994)



Yes, the underlying cause of diabetes is genetic.  More than 80 percent of diabetics who are diagnosed each year have at least one family member with the disease.

But most relatives of diabetics never develop the disease.  This is because the allele that causes diabetes is a recessive trait.  That means that someone must receive two copies, one from each parent, to become susceptible to the disease.  If a person receives only one bad allele, they will not develop the disease.

While diabetes is caused by a genetic disorder, symptoms rarely develop before middle age.  While the nearly 21 percent of the population will develop diabetes, less than .05 percent will develop juvenile diabetes.

In people with the genetic disposition for the disease, a number of factors contribute to the onset of symptoms.  They include age, gender and weight.   As mentioned before, diabetes rarely develops in the young, and is considerably more prevalent among people over 40.  In addition, women seem somewhat more susceptible to the development of symptoms.  Lastly, most diabetics are diagnosed when they are overweight.

Diabetes cannot be cured, but it can be treated such that diabetics can lead normal lives.


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